Dunsmuir Games

In the 18th Century of the Current Era, Highlander Scots began emigrating to the New World in large numbers.  Many, if not most, were forced to leave in what has become known as the Highland Clearances. One of the results of this diaspora is that there are now more sons and daughters of Scotland in the United States and Canada than in Scotland itself.

As a 21st Century resident of California and descendent of the survivors of the Clearances, I find myself surrounded by people who come from similar histories all over the planet.  Japanese, Chinese, Indians, Germans, French, Jews, Palestinians, Greeks, Russians, Poles, Hungarians, Mexicans, Haitians, Cubans, Iraqi, Native American, Irish, you name it.  They are all my neighbors, and every one of them is a proud Californian.

It has become a part of the California culture, however, to honor the rituals and history of one’s ancestral homeland.  Not a week goes by when we don’t hear about another cultural awareness event taking place somewhere nearby.  You can tour the cultural world just by spending a year in San Francisco.  According to the San Francisco newspaper, there are more than 140 actively spoken languages in the Bay Area (including Esperanto.)  I’m sure it drives the Department of Motor Vehicles nuts.

We traveled to Oakland, California this last weekend, July 11 & 12, to participate in honoring the culture of my own ancestral homeland at the Dunsmuir Scottish Games.  We drank Scottish beer brewed in a local microbrewery, listened to fine Celtic music played by a California band called Banshee in the Kitchen, spoke with members of a clan that seemed particularly enamored of the longbow (be still my heart, though I don’t remember reading that the longbow was of any particular significance in Scottish history), spoke with members of Living History recreationists St. Ita’s of Cill Ide House of Nobles, watched as kilted gentlemen tossed a telephone pole, and a game of  Shinty.  It would seem that Shinty is to field hockey what rugby is to American football.

Now, according to some friends who still live in Scotland, almost nobody there plays this game, and those that do all live in the Highlands.  Did you know that there is an organization of Shinty players that started in Northern California?

What’s the point of all this?  I’m not sure, other than to wonder if I’m not getting a bigger dose of Scottish culture right here in my backyard than I would by traveling to Loch Lomond.  (The one in Scotland, not the one located in Lake County, California.)

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